Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Pittsburgh Allure

The Economist is back singing the praises of Pittsburgh. There's a fresh salvo of regional highlights, the city as a draw to both business and talent. To me, it reads more like what Pittsburgh hopes to be and the newspaper is only too happy to help get the word out to its readership. If you are wondering why you should consider moving to Pittsburgh, then do give the article a read.

Will the media blitz result in Southwestern Pennsylvania becoming a hot destination? Politics and Place points to a line of comments gushing about Pittsburgh in the Washington Post. The boomerang migration rush from DC seems to be in full swing. All those expatriates might bring along a few outsiders for the ride.

I would guess that this relocation pattern has been in place for at least a few years. A lot of the changes in Pittsburgh tend to get buried by the poor population numbers. The Steel City is shrinking. John Craig serves up some provocative data nuggets in the fall issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly:

[Adults] (age 25 to 64) with a college degree or higher total 24 percent of the population, putting Pittsburgh in the bottom third of the nation's regions. When only Pittsburghers between 25 and 34 are considered, the percentage with a college degree or higher greater (41.9 percent) and tops all but eight U.S. regions. When the same calculation is limited to post-graduate degrees, only Boston, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco have a higher percentage than Pittsburgh.

Because of the dramatic out-migration during the first half of the 1980s, Pittsburgh is one of oldest (demographically speaking) regions in the country. That tends to overwhelm the human capital metrics often used when looking at educational attainment. In reality, Pittsburgh is a big college town with an impressive concentration of brains. As Craig's numbers demonstrate, a smart and youthful region is lurking below the legacy of manufacturing's collapse. In this regard, the Economist celebrating the reinvention of Pittsburgh rings true.

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